Act Noir - Shape a New Start [Eibon Records - 2010]Italy’s Act noir describe themselves as “electro-rock” at “the junction point between Depeche Mode, Perfect Circle, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails”. This immediately rang alarm bells portending to an aspiration to conform within the boundaries of established mainstream acts. Fears that this arguably snobbish trepidation was borne out of an unreasonable anti-commercial belligerence were rapidly set aside as ‘Shape a New Start’ began the blandest of journeys, expertly sticking to the absolute centre of the middle of the road, generating no interest but plenty of revulsion on the way.
The ten tracks taking up just under an hour are relatively indistinguishable from each other drawing from the same palette and pace as countless others before them. The central instrument is that of a tepidly-distorted guitar that effortlessly strikes stadium rock standards, chugging or tinkering with lacklustre dispassion. This is complemented with passages of synth presets, lightly filtered and mildly manipulated; providing the only clue that the record was made within the last two decades. Bass and drums create technically proficient rhythms so insipid, accurate and even they become barely noticeable, while insincerely heartfelt male vocals mimic the likes of Thom Yorke or Muse’s Matthew Bellamy with lyrics so generic they inspire indifference (“your shatterproof winter falls into my eyes / I looked for a shelter but fell in an ambush / I feel trapped outside your world”).
Act noir clearly know their craft and have the technical competence to make music that would easily pass as the soundtrack to TV car adverts, be played on commercial daytime radio or used as demo tracks for music technology. Yet, there is nothing artful about the capability to form derivative, ‘professional’ sounds into safe, commercially-proven product, rather it is somewhat depressing in its prolific acceptability and will help stultify the already withering growth of originality and ‘art’ in music.Russell Cuzner